Saturday, December 07, 2019
Recently I went on a writing retreat. My goal for that weekend was to get some progress made on my most recent WIP (a YA novel, merging present-day with Emmett Till's life. I figured I'd get thousands of words down.

And then I realized. I'd done the same thing with an earlier draft. I typed and typed and typed... and the plot went nowhere. I reviewed the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel  for WOW, and I was amazed at how much sense it made to organize and outline a manuscript. I promised myself I would not be a pantser this time. This go-around, I would not write by the seat of my pants.

So that's what I did at the retreat. I started from the beginning, outlining scenes (not writing them) and incredible things happened.

  • I learned about my main character's enemies. I saw what horrible things happened to her in the hallway and the cafeteria--just from roughing out some scenes.
  • I discovered my main character (Emma) is a cutter. That was not part of the original plan. But as I learned more about Emma, this part of her life was just revealed to me.
  • I realized that organization is not a four-letter word. Doing the "pre-writing" first--getting the story outlined--makes sense and will (probably) make it easier when I get to the drafting stage, because my writing has some direction now. Who knew that would happen?
Did I get any words down that weekend? Not many. I outlined about half of the story, then knew I had to do some deep thinking, so I started drafting the first scene. I still haven't gone back and finished the outline, but neither have I charged ahead with writing an aimless story-that-has-story.

If you're unfamiliar with the book and its concept, check out this article. It might give you an idea whether or not you'd like it.

Sioux is a middle school teacher, a dog rescuer and a freelance writer. In her spare, she reads and knits (like Madame DeFarge). If you'd like to read more of her meanderings, check out her blog.


Margo Dill said...

I have so many people on board for Save the Cat--I think it is such a great way to organize a novel and pace it. And I have you to thank!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Well Margo, if I didn't have such a hot mess because I was doing it "pantser-style," I never would have been open to it. I'm glad you found it helpful.

Renee Roberson said...


Sounds like an incredibly productive retreat--even if it wasn't what you originally expected to work on. For me the outlining and the planning can be the hardest things to get through, so bravo to you. You inspired me!

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